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Jonny Gould
News

2009:
DEC | NOV | OCT | SEP | AUG | JUL | JUN | APR

Read Jonny's Baseball World Cup blog HERE

19th December 2009

An Interview with new IBAF President Riccardo Fraccarii:

On Sunday in Lausanne, Switzerland, Riccardo Fraccari, President of the Italian Baseball Federation, was elected the 16th president of the International Baseball Federation, the global governing body for the sport of baseball.

President Fraccari is the second Italian to assume the IBAF presidency, following the late Aldo Notari, who was IBAF President from 1993-2007. He will begin his four-year term today.

President Fraccari is one of the key people responsible for baseball’s growth in Europe. His initial work in baseball came as an umpire, learning the game and organizing local, regional and national events for over 30 years. He was eventually voted Italy’s top professional umpire and the top amateur umpire in the world and was inducted into the ABUA Hall of Fame in 2002. As a baseball officer President Fraccari served as vice president of FIBS under President Notari from 1985 to 2000 and as an umpire commissioner in Italy for over 20 years.

The Pisa, Italy, native was also president of the European Confederation Technical Commission and a member of the International Federation Technical Commission.

Italian Baseball has seen its biggest growth period internationally during Fraccari’s run as president, with a growing professional league and increased play for both able bodied and disabled children. He was also a key organizer of the recently completed World Cup, which was played across Europe in September and ended with the United States defeating Cuba for the second consecutive time, this time before a sellout crowd in Nettuno, Italy.

We took a few minutes to conduct a brief Q&A with the new president:


BBD: What are the first things you would like to accomplish in office?

RF: We need to reinvent the structure of our Lausanne office, be more transparent and involve our member federations more on a day-to-day basis. As an international federation we need to be more efficient and professional. I will first learn what the current situation of the office is and will make necessary changes from there.

BBD: What are your feelings on the Olympics?

RF: We need to deeply analyze where we are on the Olympic landscape. We cannot afford to invest money on a campaign to return to the Olympic Programme at this point. What we need to do is to continue to strengthen our sport and federation, which will help prove to the IOC that it needs baseball back.

BBD: There has been a lot of talk with regard to funding. Without government support, where do you think the best possible IBAF revenue streams will come from?

RF: It is critical that we quickly develop new streams of income for the federation. We need the help of professional leagues and in general we need to make our product more attractive and valuable to investors, donors and sponsors. We may need to transform our tournaments, for example, as well as introduce new events, like a World Championship featuring club teams from around the world.

BBD: What do you think the relationship will be with the professional leagues?

RF: This is easy to answer – it is extremely important for us to strengthen our relationship with the world’s professional leagues. To this point, I am planning on offering representatives from some of the top professional leagues a position on our newly-formed Executive Committee. They need us to help continue to develop players worldwide, and we certainly need their support both on and off the field.

BBD: There has been a good deal of talk with regard to developing women’s baseball. Will you continue that growth and will you try and re-open talks with softball about working together?

RF: We will definitely continue to support women’s baseball, from the grassroots level to the Women’s Baseball World Cup. We will also try to convince softball that our only chance to the return to the Olympic Programme is through a combined bid. We need to illustrate to softball’s leaders that it was a mistake for them to call for their member federations to split with baseball.

BBD: Where do you think the biggest growth areas for baseball are?

RF: As evidenced by our bringing the 2009 Baseball World Cup to Europe we believe that the continent is certainly an area with room for significant growth. Looking at Europe’s market, economy and number of interested players, we believe that the opportunity is there.. Africa is another area where we think baseball has a bright future, and we look forward to exploring that and assisting with its efforts.

BBD: What do you think the biggest challenges are?

RF: The biggest challenge, again, is changing the identity of the federation. We need to restructure, cut expenses and grow our income through a strengthened relationship with the world’s professional leagues. We also look forward to continuing the ongoing challenge of growing the game of baseball around the world and helping educate players on our sport at a young age and on a grassroots level


18th December 2009

Riccardo Fraccari of Italy Elected New President of IBAF:

(LAUSANNE, Switzerland) - Riccardo Fraccari of Italy was elected President of the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) on Sunday to conclude the Federation’s weekend-long continental meetings and Congress.

Fraccari replaces outgoing President Dr. Harvey W. Schiller who has led the IBAF since taking over mid-term in 2007 for the late Aldo Notari. In thanking the member federations for their support, Fraccari immediately addressed the tasks at hand for the IBAF.

“I want the IBAF to truly be the home of international baseball", said Fraccari. “It is at this point that we need to shape our future - we need to take care of the development of baseball all over the world. This is the only way to truly become a global sport.”

Fraccari was unopposed in his bid for IBAF President and therefore automatically won the election. The recently re-elected 1st Vice President of the European Baseball Confederation (CEB), Fraccari also served as Continental Vice President (Europe) of the IBAF under Schiller.

He said that building upon the IBAF’s relationship with the world’s top professional leagues is among the most important things he will look to accomplish in his new role.

“It is extremely important for us to strengthen our relationship with the world’s professional leagues,” said Fraccari. “They need us to help continue to develop players worldwide, and we certainly need their support both on and off the field.”

Fraccari served as Vice President of Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball (FIBS) under President Notari from 1985 to 2000 and as an Umpire Commissioner in Italy. He was President of the CEB Technical Commission and a member of the IBAF Technical Commission. He was elected President of the Italian Federation on 8 Dec. 2001 and was recently voted into his third term.

New members of the IBAF’s Executive Committee were also elected on Sunday. Among them are Paul Seiler of the United States and Tony Castro - son of Fidel Castro - of Cuba. The 14-person group will be tasked with helping the federation’s membership continue the growth of international baseball from the grassroots level to the sport’s premiere world championships – the World Baseball Classic and the IBAF Baseball World Cup. Fraccari and the Executive Committee will begin a four-year term on Monday.

The elected Executive Committee is as follows:

President - Riccardo Fraccari, ITA

1st Vice President - Kazuhiro Tawa, JPN

2nd Vice President - Alonso Perez Gonzalez, MEX

3rd Vice President - Tony Castro, CUB

Secretary General - Israel Roldan, PUR

Treasurer - Rene Laforce, BEL

1st Member at Large - Paul Seiler, USA

2nd Member at Large - Tom Peng, TPE

3rd Member at Large - Luis Melero, ESP

These members are in addition to the IBAF’s Continental Vice Presidents (Presidents of continental federations), each of whom sit on the federation’s Executive Committee as well. These members include: Africa - Ishola Williams, NGR; Americas - Eduardo De Bello, PAN; Asia - Seung-Kyoo Kang, KOR; Europe - Martin Miller, GER; and Oceania - John Ostermeyer, AUS.

Over the last two years Dr. Schiller spearheaded the IBAF’s bid to return to the Olympic Programme in 2016 and oversaw a baseball competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games that witnessed record crowds and spurred interest in the sport throughout the country. Dr. Schiller’s time with the IBAF was also highlighted by the introduction of Baseball World Rankings for both men and women, the birth of an International Women’s Baseball Committee and the first-ever Women’s Continental Championship in Venezuela, an improved online presence with the introduction of IBAF.org, the IBAF becoming fully WADA-compliant, numerous new baseball federations worldwide, and most recently, the first ever IBAF Baseball World Cup to be held in multiple countries throughout Europe (seven countries in total) which featured the most competing nations (22) in the tournament’s history as well.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my two years as President and leave the position knowing that the best years are yet to come for baseball, and I look forward as a fan and supporter to assisting in any way possible” said Schiller addressing the Congress.

“Personally I want to thank all of you whom I have come in contact with for all your help and good wishes. Baseball is the ultimate team game, and we would not be successful in our efforts at any level if our whole team was not working toward one goal - growing the game.”

Also announced at the Congress was the naming of the federation’s top Senior Athlete, Junior Athlete, Coach, Umpire and Member Federation Executive. The awards had been presented on an annual basis until 2004 and have not been awarded since. The 2009 awards recognize achievements over the last two years, which is a period of time that allows the federation to consider athletes from at least one of its two professional events - the Baseball World Cup and World Baseball Classic, both of which are competed in every-four-years cycles - and both of its junior events - the 18U World Junior Championships and the 16U World Youth Championships, which are competed in alternating every-other-year cycle.

The recipients of the awards and a brief summary of their achievements are as follows:

Senior Athlete - Justin Smoak (Triple-A Oklahoma City, MILB)

Junior Athlete - Yung-Hoon Sung (Doosan Bears, KBO)

Coach - Tatsunori Hara (Yomiuri Giants, NPB)

Umpire - Paul Hyham ( Australia)

Member Federation Executive  - Juergen Elsishans (German Federation)

“The IBAF congratulates each of our award winners and the member federations which they represent” said Schiller. “International baseball has witnessed extraordinary achievements over the past two years, and we look forward to future success stories in the years to come”


17th December 2009

Q&A with outgoing IBAF President Dr. Harvey Schiller:

Q: You have had a two-year run as IBAF President. How would you describe your experience?

A: I think it was terrific and rewarding. I had been out of the international sports community for a while and was glad to be able to use my contacts to help grow the game and bring new partners into the sport. The progress we made to unify various entities within the sport, the progress we made with anti-doping initiatives, the Beijing Olympics, the World Baseball Classic and the Baseball World Cup were all very gratifying. It was also very impressive to see the passion that so many around the world have for the sport, whether it is at the federation or volunteer level or at the highest professional level. It is truly a global game and a sport for all.

The biggest disappointment was the Olympic re-instatement bid, but even in that process I think we learned a great deal about how to grow the sport even without the Olympics. The Olympics may not want baseball, but baseball will always embody the Olympic ideal.

Q: Why did you choose not to run again?

A: I felt it is time to do something different. We made a great deal of progress in two very short years and I would like to stay involved, but the time commitment was pulling me away from other duties. Many people don’t realize it is a volunteer position with fulltime hours. I don’t regret a minute, but it is time to move on and help in other ways than as president.

Q: Is there anything you would have done differently?


A: I think with regard to the Olympics the approach we took was the right one. We did not waste money on consultants as other sports did, we spent money and time to grow the game and build awareness. I think the fact the President Rogge took the voting out of the hands of the delegates and into the hands of the Executive Committee changed everything, so perhaps making a longer and stronger push amongst the delegates to get the process changed would have helped, but all indications are the die was cast. The co-operation of MLB and the Player’s Association with regard to top players was outstanding. They paid all costs and as a result almost no money from IBAF was used for the President’s office or expenses or the Olympic programme.

Q: Do you think the governance of the sport today is in a better shape than it was when you came on board?


A: I do think so yes. The relationships with all the various governing entities in the sport, from MLB and the Japanese League to Little League and the Federations, are vastly improved and that is a tribute to our staff. I also believe the whole Olympic process gave baseball the opportunity to create healthy dialogue with many countries where the sport is now growing, and that sets the table for a brighter future.

Q: One of the biggest issues remains steroids. How do you think baseball is addressing the issue?

A: I do not think baseball, whether it is the IBAF or MLB or the Player’s Union, gets enough credit for the leadership position the sport has taken with regard to anti-doping. Baseball has more in competition tests than any sport, has had very few positive tests of any kind in international competition, and is working very hard to continue to police itself. We are fully WADA compliant, and the fact that players do get caught is a sign that the system is working. The sport is as clean today as it has ever been and is cleaner than most if not all other sports. I think in time the facts will show that the steps baseball has taken will be landmark, and will set the standard for all international sports going forward.

Q: Do you think the failure to return baseball to the Olympics was an anti-American statement by the IOC?

A: I think if that is true it is very shortsighted, given the fact that baseball is the national pastime of many countries outside of the United States, and is now the largest sport in the world not on the Olympic programme. Our plan effectively addressed all the issues that were presented to us as to why baseball was removed from the Olympic programme, and as a result the game is stronger not just in the United States, but in places where is it now just taking hold. We are probably a victim of our own success more than anything. The IOC felt they wanted two new sports for the programme in rugby sevens and golf, and that’s what they pushed through to the membership.

Q: Should baseball try again for 2020?

A: My recommendation is no. If the Olympic movement wanted baseball it would have brought the sport back for 2016. The cost associated with pushing for re-instatement again pulls monies away from developing the game, and in a challenged economy that is not a smart thing to do. We should continue to grow our international events and find new business partners, and if the Olympic movement would like us back we will be open to that. However pursuing the Olympics again I believe is a waste. The ultimate decision however will be up to the new board and the new president.

Q: What are the biggest challenges the new president will face?


A: I think finding funding in those countries whose federations are run by government monies tied to the Olympics will be the biggest challenge. Baseball in established countries will continue to grow, the biggest challenge will be helping those smaller countries where the sport is just taking root to get the funds necessary to grow grassroots programs. The relationships with the Major Leagues also has to continue to develop and stay positive. Many forget that the World Baseball Classic contributed $15 million (USD) to the IBAF and its federations for development of the game, and MLB completely funded our Olympic effort as well. That relationship has to stay healthy, and we need to continue to move forward with relationships with the professional leagues in Japan, Korea and Chinese Taipei as well.

Q: What are the biggest opportunities the new president will have?

A: One of the biggest surprises for me in the last few months was the interest at the grassroots level for women’s and girls baseball. There are thousands of young women who play the game and then switch to softball or other sports in their teens because of lack of opportunity. That I think is a big growth area. I also think that the professionals now see that representing their country is much more important to them than they ever thought possible, so growing a top tier international event like the WBC is very important for the development of the game.

Q: Do you think baseball at the professional level and at the grassroots level can work effectively together?


A: Yes and I think we have proved that the relationship between the two, which some people saw as mutually exclusive, is very beneficial to all. If you look at other sports - basketball for example, and see how the NBA works with all the grassroots organizations around the world to grow the game - you see a healthy working relationship. That is what we have started with baseball and should continue. The IBAF can be a very strong conduit for the professional leagues to grow the game in emerging countries, and that grows MLB’s fan base. Our efforts have provided grassroots support around the globe, and have included the help of local and federal governments, organizations like Ripken Baseball, and many former players who are now more involved with the growth of the game than ever before. All very positive to show how one side benefits the other

Q: Will you stay involved in baseball?

A: I have told everyone I would like to help in any way. This past summer I was asked to join the board of the Baseball Hall of Fame, so that will also keep me involved as well on some level. I admit I was a fan of baseball before this process, but now I really see the value of the game at all levels as a social unifier and a game for all, and it was very frustrating to me that the IOC did not see that value that so many others see. Therefore anything I can do to help grow that global presence I will do.

Q: What do you see for the future of baseball?

A: I think it is very bright. The growth in emerging nations and across Europe at the grassroots level has to be cultivated, as that will build a new fanbase. The partnership with MLB and the NPB has to continue to evolve, and the ability to be a unifier for all the groups involved in the game, from the manufacturers to the various bodies that run the sport at every level from Teeball on up, has to continue. In one of the worst economic years on record, baseball grew in exposure and stayed on par with revenue, and that says a great deal about where the sport sits on a global basis. We must continue to tell the story of baseball to its ardent fans and its recent and potential converts, and if we continue to do that the game will grow around the world

10th November 2009

Calling all fellow-baseball nuts.

Check out the following news on the future of Baseball and Softball in the UK. How exciting would this be? Rumour has it the National Centre would name parts of the stadium after certain key figures in the UK world of Baseball and/or Softball. I can see it now: "JC's John" or would that be "JC's WC?"

Whatever they call it this would be a huge step forward for British Baseball/Softball.

BSUK moves towards the creation of dedicated facilities for baseball and softball

Baseball and softball have come a long way in Great Britain over the years, but the one thing generally lacking in this country has been dedicated facilities for playing the sports.

Go to many European countries, large and small, and you'll find baseball and softball complexes complete with full fencing, proper dugouts, spectator stands, dirt or cut-out infields, press boxes, bullpens, changing rooms and toilets, concession stands and in some cases lights – in short, facilities built specifically for the sports to be played on a local, national or international level.

In Britain, such facilities have been largely absent or at best have included only some of the elements listed above. But that is about to change, and BaseballSoftballUK has taken a couple of important steps recently towards making the creation of dedicated facilities part of its overall development programme.

One such step is the creation of a plan and process for developing a Facility Strategy that can attract funding and support from government agencies and other partners – and BSUK has now created just such a plan. Another step has been the appointment of a Facilities Steering Group to guide the development of a Facility Strategy.

While this may sound bureaucratic, what it actually means is that the process of creating a number of dedicated facilities for baseball and softball in England is at last starting to move from talk to action.

Finding the Money

Of course, the key to building dedicated facilities for baseball and softball is access to significant capital funding, and this has become available for the first time through the 2009-2013 Whole Sport Plan, under which Sport England provides funding for BSUK to carry out its development work.

Built into the 2009-2013 Plan is £400,000 of capital funding earmarked for the creation of baseball and/or softball facilities during the last two years of the Plan, from April 2011 through March 2013. But there is also a requirement for this funding to be matched from within the sports or through other sources, and when this is achieved, the total amount available for facilities creation will be £800,000 or more.

The idea of a comprehensive Facility Strategy, which is a Sport England requirement, is to ensure that a strategic approach is taken to the creation of facilities that will be of maximum use to the baseball and softball communities.

Or, to put it more simply, the Facility Strategy should ensure that the right facilities are provided in the right place at the right time.

Public Opinion

Surveys of baseball and softball participants in the UK have identified that club and team members in particular feel that the places where the sports are played are often unsuitable and sometimes unsafe, especially in comparison with other countries. So the desire for better playing facilities comes from the playing community itself.

Earlier this year, BSUK and Sport England commissioned Ipsos-MORI to conduct a satisfaction survey of the sporting experience in baseball and softball. Facilities, a functional driver of satisfaction, was highlighted in these results as important to those taking part in the sports. The specific areas of importance were the quality of the playing surface, access to dedicated and exclusive areas to play and auxiliary facilities such as toilets, changing rooms, etc).

But from BSUK's point of view, facilities are also an important element of sports development.

So BSUK's premise is that facility development will be an integral part of wider development plans, and the core around which strong and sustainable structures for the sports can be created. The aim of the Facility Strategy will be to produce a comprehensive framework for the development of facilities for both sports at national, regional and local levels, based around competition, training, development and recruitment needs.

What is the Plan?

The idea of a Facility Strategy is to identify and develop a list of projects to which available funding will be allocated, and the preliminary thinking is that this will be a number of strategically placed and closely supported Regional Centres in the areas in which BSUK is funded to work.

But where exactly these centres will be located, whether they will be based on existing clubs or built from scratch, whether all of them will serve both sports, whether one or more will be developed to support international competition and a host of other questions are what the Facility Strategy will be designed to answer. In a nutshell, the strategy should be able to establish:

- What facilities are needed.
- Why these facilities are needed.
- Where facilities should be located.
-How facilities are to be provided.
-When facilities are to be provided.

The “what” and “why” questions will provide an evidence base for the strategy and the “where”, “how” and “when” questions will describe how the strategy can be implemented.

Timeline and Steering Group

Meetings designed to begin work on the Facility Strategy will get under way at the end of November, and a new BSUK Facilities Steering Group will meet every two months or so from December onwards.

April 2010 has been earmarked for a series of consultation meetings with the baseball and softball communities, European confederations, Major League Baseball, Little League and selected Local Authorities and County Sports Partnerships, among other stakeholders, before the Facility Strategy is finalised and launched in May.

The facility development project will then move towards implementation with the formation of a Facilities Delivery Steering Group in the middle of next year.

Members of the initial Facilities Steering Group will include John Boyd, Jenny Fromer, Paul Wilkinson, Bob Fromer and Will Lintern from BSUK, Colin Stone and Jon Marsh as Independent Advisors, Rosie Benson from Sport England and a representative from the baseball and softball communities (this position will be advertised on the BSUK website).

Timeline and Steering Group

Meetings designed to begin work on the Facility Strategy will get under way at the end of November, and a new BSUK Facilities Steering Group will meet every two months or so from December onwards.

April 2010 has been earmarked for a series of consultation meetings with the baseball and softball communities, European confederations, Major League Baseball, Little League and selected Local Authorities and County Sports Partnerships, among other stakeholders, before the Facility Strategy is finalised and launched in May.

The facility development project will then move towards implementation with the formation of a Facilities Delivery Steering Group in the middle of next year.

Members of the initial Facilities Steering Group will include John Boyd, Jenny Fromer, Paul Wilkinson, Bob Fromer and Will Lintern from BSUK, Colin Stone and Jon Marsh as Independent Advisors, Rosie Benson from Sport England and a representative from the baseball and softball communities (this position will be advertised on the BSUK website).

10th November 2009, “BSUK moves towards the creation of dedicated facilities for baseball and softball”http://www.baseballsoftballuk.com/gen_insert.php?from_level3= Articles&db_story=3489&this_page=bsuknews&back=Current%20%20News

 

30th October 2009

Hi Fellow Baseball-Nuts,
The World Series is upon us - up the Phillies!!! Check out the following site for all UK
fans.
http://www.thestirrer.co.uk/its-just-not-cricket-3010091.html, 2009

The sound of willow and leather, the taste of warm beer on a Sunday afternoon, the sudden shout as a side is retired.

Cricket.

Well, how about the sound of 60,000 fans on a cold late October evening, the taste of multi-million dollar athletes tired but excited after a 160 game season and the sudden shout as a sharp- eyed hitter slams a ball into the klieg lights 450 feet away?

Baseball.

I have spent more than 3 decades on this island refusing to be drawn in comparing the two sports. They are both great.

But this week, baseball shines as its World Series (OK, it is a grandiose term) roars off. The New York Yankees, the Man U of baseball, rolling in money and history and pride, take on the Philadelphia Phillies- a makeshift team only 90 miles away from NYC.

Think of Man U taking on Sheffield Wednesday in the Cup Final.

The Phillies won the opening game thanks to a pitcher flinging the ball close to 100 mph from only 60 feet away. The Yankees, a team of over priced and slightly aging hitters, could only muscle one single run in losing 6-1.

It’s been a long season and my Wyoming friend Ron and I have spent many an evening watching games off his hard drive from ESPN America ever since Channel Five slapped me in the face with a wet fish and unceremoniously dropped its baseball coverage earlier this year.

It’s been six months of baseball, six months of knowing we are the only two people in Birmingham, if not this great nation of ours, that flinch at an inside curve, roar after a shoestring catch and fall off the couch when a grand slam heads off into outer space into deep center.

The Phillies or Yanks have to win 4 out of 7 to win the series. The winning players trouser millions.

Here are some baseball terms now in common use over here and their derivations

Left field:

The outer part of the baseball ground is the outfield. Left field is where right handed batters pull the ball. So, it is historically longer and deeper- thus left field means a long way away.

Strike Three:

Three swings and you’re out - gone, down, beaten.

Out of the box:

A batter stands in a rectangular box to hit the ball. If he steps out of the box, play stops- ergo, to be out of the box means to step back and think things though. Throw someone a curve:

A curve ball swerves away from a hitter sharply and is sudden and can surprise a batter.

Steal Home:

The sexiest and cheekiest move in baseball, unexpected, glaringly fast and usually kamikaze-like in trying to score an extra run. If it works, you have pulled off something amazing under someone’s nose.

There you go: baseball is in the air. And these days, probably being spoken, unknowingly by someone in your office.

Batter up.

Lutz, Richard.

14 August 2009

IBAF Statement Regarding IOC’s Announcement on Re-instatement To The Olympic Programme For 2016

(LAUSANNE, Switzerland) The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) today issued the following statement after the announcement earlier today in Berlin on which two sports would be put forth for a vote in October in Copenhagen for re-instatement for the 2016 Olympics.

The IBAF would like to congratulate golf and rugby on their selection today. Both will be welcome additions to the Olympic programme and should add great excitement to which ever city is selected to host the Olympic Games in 2016. We also want to wish nothing but the best to karate, roller sports, softball and squash, who were also not selected today. All of the seven sports under consideration have proven through the selection process that they are worthy of Olympic Games inclusion.

Today is certainly a disappointing day for the billions of fans and participants around the globe who love the game of baseball, especially for the many young people from emerging countries who are now just learning the game and will not get the opportunity to realise the Olympic dream that so many before them have had. We effectively addressed all the International Olympic Committee’s questions with regard to re-instatement and are confident that we had made the best presentation possible.

The game of baseball has grown stronger around the world, and overall baseball is seen and played by more boys and girls and men and women, both disabled and able-bodied, than ever before. Baseball will always emulate the Olympic ideals, and we predict that the IOC will be asking baseball back to the games for 2020, as we will continue to be the best partner for global sport possible.

On behalf of all our federations, we want to thank President Rogge and the IOC for the opportunity to be re-instated to the Olympic programme, and we wish all the best going forward.


12 August 2009

THURSDAY IS D (AS IN DECISION) FOR OLYMPIC BASEBALL

by Jerry Milani, http://www.facebook.com/l/;Baseballdigest.com

This Thursday, while baseball fans in the United States are gearing up for pennant races and starting to follow the phenomenon of the Little League World Series, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge will make an announcement in Berlin that could affect the future of literally thousands of young baseball players around the globe.

President Rogge will announce which two sports of the seven under consideration will be put forth for a vote to the IOC members for inclusion in the Olympic program for 2016. Baseball, along with softball, golf, rugby, roller sports, karate and squash are vying for the right to be presented to the IOC membership for a vote in October in Copenhagen.

But with baseball doing so well as a global sport it is one of the few sports outside of soccer that can be called the National Pastime in nations ranging from the United States and Japan to Korea, Cuba and the Dominican Republic why is Olympic inclusion even important? After all, the continued growth of the World Baseball Classic along with millions of dollars invested in development of the sport around the world really should put baseball on a global stage regardless of the Olympics, shouldn’t it?

While all that is true, the answer is that the Olympics remains a very important piece in the growth of baseball in many developing countries, since those sport federations get at least part of their funding from government dollars, many of which are provided to sports in the Olympic program. So while it may not be as big a deal for the growth in countries where the sport is popular, or even in some emerging nations like Italy or the Netherlands or even India, where baseball is gaining interest, the development of baseball for children can and may be slowed if baseball is left out of the picture on Thursday.

In many ways baseball may be a victim of its own global success in the eyes of many involved in the decision. The sport is arguably the third-largest in the world in terms of participation behind soccer and basketball, and even in a slow economy, the visibility, innovation and revenue generated by Major League Baseball as well as the Japanese League is in the billions, and dwarfs the visibility and revenue of most other global professional sports.

And although the issue of performance enhancing drugs is an issue for all sports, baseball’s year-round visibility has made it the poster child for steroid controversy, despite the fact that MLB and the Players Association have probably done more to correct the problem and be leaders in the anti-doping area than any other sport. Baseball effectively addressed the issue head-on on the international front as well, and has been fully WADA-compliant, a very positive development that is often missed in the steroid debate.

There is also the top player issue that is frequently brought up as a barrier to return to the Olympics for the sport, yet when baseball was first brought into the Olympics in 1992, one of the caveats was that amateur or non-MLB players be used in the competition. As the Olympics have evolved very quickly into a professional sport endeavour, baseball has been playing catch-up on the pro side and had a good sampling of 40 man roster players in the Beijing Games, over half of which have moved on to Major League rosters since the end of last year’s Olympics.

The sport’s most recent proposal to the IOC even guaranteed the use of star players from Major League Baseball in a five day tournament in 2016, and outgoing Players Association head Don Fehr has pointed quite accurately to the fact that the World Baseball Classic and other events have served to create positive inroads for players to get used to the international game. In fact, virtually every current player on an MLB roster who has been asked, has said that if they are selected, they would find a way to play for their country in 2016, a list that includes current stars like the Phillies Shane Victorino, the Tigers Curtis Granderson, the Red Sox Victor Martinez and the Yankees C.C. Sabathia among many others.

More importantly than the current stars, baseball has looked to the future and gotten buy-in from players like Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and Yu Darvish, players who may be in their prime in 2016 and have already tasted international play, to say they would also play in 2016. Yet even with all that work, and the fact that almost 300 current professional players have played Olympic baseball since 1992, the perception remains that the sport may lack star power in 2016.

At the end of day on Thursday, it may come down to the simple fact that the IOC does not see baseball fitting in as part of the program any more, despite the fact that the sports leaders’ who rarely unite on any issue have worked tirelessly to fix all the issues that had baseball removed from the program for 2012. The reasons whispered size of rosters, lack of appeal in Europe (where most of the Executive Committee hails from), stadium issues, the inability to shut down the season (which is not asked of any other professional sports in the summer, including soccer and tennis and others), the lack of a woman’s discipline (the IBAF has added a women’s
proposal by the way, and has formed a committee to develop women’s baseball further, chaired by Dr. Donna Lopiano) are all reasons that can be overcome if there was interest by the IOC.

In truth, baseball has offered not just to offset any financial burdens in infrastructure that may exist, but will also form a joint marketing program with the IOC to promote baseball and the Olympics to the largest possible audience year-round for the next seven years, a claim which none of the other sports can offer. Even from a finance standpoint, the amount of money in ticket revenue that could be generated in a five day tournament in two stadiums in Tokyo or Chicago (two of the potential cities) could be in excess of $30 million dollars, while Rio or Madrid would still offer up crowds in excess of 10,000 people per day.

So has baseball made its best pitch for Olympic re-inclusion? If you look at the facts you have to say yes. As a matter of fact, the entire process has probably done more to grow the game, from the addressing of anti-doping to the increased play in nations around the world, than if baseball did not have to fight to get back into the Olympics. The real downside will be the young people who will no longer get that exposure to a sport that is all-inclusive, teaches fair play and discipline, is relatively inexpensive to play and promotes healthy physical activity. That is a fairly large downside in terms of development for the future, but one thing is for sure, baseball is a sport that has always shown resilience, and even with a thumbs down from the IOC, it will find a way to make sure it continues to grow around the world.

17 July 2009

Hi fellow baseball-nuts

Ever wanted to be more than just a couch-potato baseball-nut? I know I have. My whole life I've played cricket and still get a real buzz from a good game. Sadly I never got the chance to actually play baseball, and when I have taken a few swings on the morning of an All-Star game, it was pretty obvious (to all Channel 5 baseball viewers) that I didn't really know what I was doing. Well if there's one man in the UK guaranteed to turn an also-ran into a Group 1 winner it's GB Baseball's legendary Catcher Mr. Joshua Chetwynd. What follows is his master class. Enjoy!

How to Teach a Cricket Batsman to Hit a Baseball

It can be done.

Cricket and baseball are both bat and ball sports, but experts in each game take a different approach to teaching how to make successful contact with the ball. Here are some tips on how to turn a cricket batsman into a baseball hitter.

Instructions:

Things You'll Need:

  • Baseball bat
  • Baseballs
  • Baseball tee

Step 1
Get your hands loaded. Baseball swings tend to be more power-oriented than the usually more controlled approach in cricket. In baseball, hitters "coil" before attacking a pitch. This means "coiling" or moving your hands back (maybe two to three inches) from your starting point as the pitcher brings his arm back to throw. This allows the hitter to create more power and bat speed as he "uncoils". Many cricketers trying baseball will swing from a dead standstill.

Step 2
Bend the front arm. In cricket, batsmen tend to keep a very straight front arm. This doesn't work for baseball. Hitters in baseball want their front arm to be bent at approximately a 90-degree angle when in their stance and as they "coil". The reason: it allows the hitter to get the bat to a position of contact faster and with more power (think of throwing a frisbee -- if you do it with a straight arm you have less strength and it takes longer to release; if you bend your arm 90-degree, watch the disc fly!)

Step 3
Rotate the lower body. With the exception of a few specific shots, cricketers tend to be more flat-footed at point of contact than baseball players. In baseball, a key to driving the ball is rotating not only the hands but also the hips and the lower body through the point of contact (as part of the "uncoiling" process). A key to making sure you get good hip rotation is pivoting the back foot (think of it like "squashing a bug" in the dirt). This will help open your hips and better utilise your leg strength. Also, the faster you rotate that foot, the faster your hips will open (try it). If your back foot is flat-footed, it makes it difficult to fully open your hips and get the most out of your "uncoiling" efforts.

Step 4
Practice. Hitting a baseball -- like hitting a cricket ball -- is a process of muscle memory. Only repetition will lead to success. Rather than get a pitcher to throw to you, it's better to slow down the progression. A good way to do this is to get a batting tee and work on the elements discussed above. Focus on each element at a time as it may take awhile to master them all.

And finally, I thought you might enjoy this site I just found - beautiful baseball infographics and other visual treats.

http://www.facebook.com/l/;http://bit.ly/QgInd

It's hardcore!!

5th June 2009

Welcome Fellow Baseball Nuts!

So what's been happening?  Well first of all my good mates Mark Hendrik & Toby Belshaw have set up a petition to fight to bring back baseball on five/any terrestrial tv station.

http://www.facebook.com/l/; http://www.petitiononline.com/bb2009c5/petition.html
 
Thanks for that - great to know there are still fellow-baseball nuts out there unwilling to let the dream die.

Other news on the International front, courtesy of Joe Favorito who sent me the following:
Clinics, new federation websites and grassroots programs all show growth, as Europe moves toward hosting Septembers Baseball World Cup.

LAUSANNE, Switzerland - The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) today released a series of updates on the progress of baseballs growth across Europe, and the efforts all partners are putting towards growing the game. All indicators, from professional players playing abroad to the increase in clinics and participation in Little League, show that the sport is growing at its fastest pace ever in Europe as the Baseball World Cup approaches in early September.

The efforts that our federations are making to grow the sport at the grassroots level, as well as all the time our partners are putting in to help us tell our story, are being positively reflected in our growth globally, said IBAF President Dr. Harvey Schiller. We are especially pleased with the growth that we are seeing in Europe leading up to this Septembers World Cup.  It is a very exciting time to be involved in the sport.

Some of the points that are reflective of the growth of baseball in Europe include:

- Over 40 players from no less than nine European countries (England, Portugal, Spain, the Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and France) are currently playing in the North American major and minor leagues, the highest number ever.
- Initial reports from Little League baseball, working with the European Baseball Confederation (CEB), are showing an increase in enrolment of over 10% for boys and girls playing Little League baseball across the continent.
- Major League Baseball recently completed its European Academy tryouts in six countries, and will be working with the CEB and IBAF to conduct coaching and player clinics in ten countries (Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) throughout the rest of the summer and early fall and into 2010.
- The not-for-profit group Pitch in for Baseball recently completed its first-ever equipment give-away and clinic in Iraq, and plans extensive equipment programs throughout Europe into the fall.
- The IBAF unveiled the first two of a series of country-specific baseball websites,  http://www.facebook.com/l/;www.baseballgermany.com and http://www.facebook.com/l/;www.baseball-france.com, geared to provide all information regarding baseball in the respective countries, with additional sites coming in the next few weeks.

With regard to the World Cup, tickets for the World Cup sites in the Czech Republic and Sweden will be on sale by May 20, with other sites to follow soon. Barcelona, the city where baseball debuted as an Olympic medal sport in 1992, will play host to games between Spain, South Africa, Puerto Rico, and Cuba during the first round from 10-12 September. Other first round games will be held in Regensberg, Germany; Moscow; Prague; and Sundyberg (Stockholm), Sweden from 9-12 September. The second round will be split between Italy and the Netherlands, while the final round will be in Italy on 27 September. In total, 22 nations will compete for the coveted world championship.

Some recent news...also remember to check out http://www.facebook.com/l/;IBAF.org for a series of new pieces on baseball around the world.

So the airwaves might be quiet but the game aint over.

Stay tuned next week for updates on ESPN America and their growing involvement in baseball, as the only channel still offering live baseball.

Stay Hardcore!

JG 

29th April 2009

Fantasy Baseball

Welcome Fellow Baseball Nuts!

Another day and another disappointment in the world of Fantasy Baseball.

As most of you already know I am a Fantasy Baseball obsessive. And there is nothing wrong with that only that I'm rather useless at it. But this year I have adopted a new approach. I have a team in five different Fantasy Leagues. Throw enough mud and some of it might stick - that's the theory. Surely one of them will be successful?

Except we are now a month into the season and four of the five are already fighting relegation. But no matter how bad I am, I can assure all you fellow fantasists that I haven't lost the belief, the desire, the commitment.

And to prove it, check out ESPNAmerica.com and click on http://blogs.espnamerica.com/espnainsight/?author=7

JC is writing a weekly blog for the only channel now showing live baseball in the UK, and once a month I join him for a discussion on any baseball related topic. This weeks issue? Yep - you guessed it! Fantasy Baseball. Enjoy!


April 14th 2009

Baseball at the House of Commons

Hello fellow baseball nuts.

If like me you're suffering serious withdrawal symptoms from a baseball less TV schedule. If like me the memory of JC's carpet head and sharp analytical baseball brain are fast becoming the stuff of legends and NOT reality. If like me you long for one sighting of Erik stuffing his face at the nearest hot dog stand, ketchup and mustard cascading down onto his latest purchase from Canada's answer to Mr.Buy-Right. If like me you wake up swinging for the fences, only to realise you struck out in the 1st,  then you're in need of a baseball tonic. And I think Dr. Gould has just the medicine.

Check out this link - http://www.publications.parliament.uk /pa/cm/cmedm/90402e01.htm

It's the Order of Business on a recent day at the House of Commons.

Guys and Girls our little show is reverberating around the corridors of power. Could the outcome swing the General Election? Which way will the House side?

Who cares? Because we may be going down, but we're going down in flames!

Baseball - it's Hardcore.


8th April 2009

Good evening fellow baseball-nuts - God I'm going to miss saying that - and a big warm welcome NOT to baseball on Five, but to my personal homage to the sport we all adore.

It's a bizarre feeling isn't it? No more baseball on Five.

Twelve amazing years as the longest running show on the Channel. In fact the ONLY show that had been on Five since its launch in 1997. I suppose that makes me their equivalent to Carol Vorderman…shame I wasn't on her wages!!

I know this off-season has been confusing and frustrating in equal measure. So many crossed messages as to our future (or lack of future) on Five. Let me fill you in as best I can. When we came off air after another cracking season, we genuinely believed that Baseball would be returning to Five. The contract was up for renewal with MLB but we had no reason to think either party would not sign a new deal.

Come mid-December and the situation had changed dramatically. I think it's safe to assume that money was the key issue for Five. The advertising income for all commercial TV Stations has just fallen through the floor. I was told on December the 15th by Sunset & Vine (the excellent Production Company that made the programme for all 12 years) that the programme was not coming back. That's probably when the rumours started to circulate that there were problems. Interestingly Five then seem to have a potential change of heart - possibly because of the wonderful deluge of upset e-mails and letters sent by you guys. Sadly whatever the truth of that rumour, the financial issues were to prove too big to overcome and the season has started without us.  

But I refuse to be glum. It was an amazing ride, and the best job I'll ever have. And though all good things come to an end, we still have a choice. Are we going to let all that good work go to waste? Are we just going to stop swinging for the fences because Five have lost the love? The hell we are!! There is a baseball community in this country that we should all be rightly proud of, and I for one am not willing to walk away from it.

So first things first - we're going to get this sport back on TV. And don't ask me how. Right now I've no idea. What I do know is that there is so much passion, so much commitment amongst the UK baseball community, that together we can make it happen. So the first thing I've done is persuade those gallant, tireless moderators and technical gurus on the fantasybaseballUK.com site to keep our Fantasy Baseball League alive, with me as head honcho. If you haven't joined already, then check it out - your first team is still free, and I'm sorting some great baseball prizes for the weekly and monthly winners.

Only last night I met up with some of the big syrups at ESPN America - now the only channel showing live baseball in this. I will be doing my level best to develop leads and interest from other channels - the Beeb have already voiced a potential future interest. So all is not lost, in fact far from it. But I need you guys. All members of the Five Baseball Appreciation Society on Facebook. All of you that so readily signed up to the Erik the Producer Appreciation Society, the Big Davey Lengel Appreciation Society, the Josh Chetwynd is ok Society. The thousands that wrote e-mail after hilarious e-mail to the show. Your sport needs you, and I need you.

So don't lose the faith, don't lose heart and don't ever stop being ............................ 

HARDCORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Watch this space for more “Jonny Gould Baseball Blogs”.

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